VOD film review: The Hunter
Chris Bryant | On 16, Jun 2013
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Cast: Willem Dafoe
Watch The Hunter online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Willem Dafoe’s intense mercenary is tasked with hunting the last Tasmanian Tiger and acquiring it’s DNA in The Hunter. Martin plans to spend 12 days in Australia’s remote woodland, setting traps, camping and staring deeply into the distance holding a rifle. He assumes he will be alone. Despite the exposition-heavy opening scene telling us all this information, the following 100 minutes are slight, quiet and genuinely enthralling.
The local lumber business is hampered by hippies and protesters, all of whom assume Dafoe is there to hinder them. He rents a room in a house with two inquisitive children, a clinically depressed mother and a suspiciously absent father. Sam Neill helps out, visiting the house, guiding Dafoe and radiating a special brand of seemingly stoic kindness.
The film gets straight to the point: here is your mission. Here is a rifle. Get on with it. And Dafoe does just that. He is nothing short of perfect. Impossible to read, nigh-on emotionless, but never blank or boring, he tackles every task with careful consideration, confidence and a slow, sensible coldness.
Upon first arriving at the house, he plays opera through an iPod dock. When the young daughter says she’d prefer to hear Springsteen, he smoothly shuts the door in her face and proceeds to assemble his gun. It is an existence of practicality – even when he gets close to the family, he doesn’t smile or bake them cookies. His only tell is questioning the enigmatic son about the tiger.
It soon becomes apparent that neither his mission, nor the disappearance of the father figure, are quite as straightforward as Martin hoped. The conspiratorial element of the story introduces a few somewhat foreseeable twists, but the film deals a gut-wrenching final act that leaves Martin with a time limit and some very serious choices to make.
The thriller dies as it lived, careful and controlled, in a mist of distrust and moral ambiguity. The Hunter finishes exactly where it should: aiming straight down the sights.